New charity law to bring sector into line in south China

16:56, September 24, 2010      

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China's first regional charity law is being deliberated in southern Hunan Province to protect donors and ensure accountability.

Early last week, the draft of the Charity Regulation of Hunan Province was submitted to the Standing Committee of the People's Congress of Hunan, the provincial legislature, for deliberation. Within it, obligations of donators are clarified for the first time.

"This law could be a legislation reference point for protecting the legal rights of the beneficiary and charity organizations as well as clamping down on fake pledges," said Xu Chenguang, a local legislator.

This year, several Chinese celebrities including film star Zhang Ziyi were criticized for failing to carry out their charity pledges. They were suspected of making the pledges to elevate their personal fame.

According to the draft, a donator should sign a contract which states when and how he will fulfill his pledge.

During the past three years, China has witnessed several serious disasters such as the Wenchuan earthquake, Yushu earthquake and Zhouqu mudslide. More and more Chinese have joined in charity campaigns to help the victims.

Statistics from the Chinese Academy of Social Science shows that China's individual donations had surpassed corporate donations for the first time in 2008, accounting for 54 percent of the total donations.

However, recent reports about China's top rich who hesitated to attend a billionaires' banquet, sponsored by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, drew public attention to how willing China's rich were to part with their wealth.

Wang Zhongwu, sociology professor with Shandong University told Xinhua that most Chinese do not want to admit how rich they are for fear of being blackmailed by illegal charity groups to donate.

Under the draft, only non-profit organizations can solicit contributions.

The regulation also stipulates that a detailed fund-raising plan including the purpose, time and methods should be posted on local governmental websites before a charity campaign starts.

A summarizing report should also be publicized in the same way within 20 days of the campaign finishing.

Organizations that violate the rules can face a fine of 20,000 to 50,000 yuan.

Monitoring from media and donators are encouraged and inspections by local authorities are made mandatory in the draft.

Zhang Shun, a Chinese businessman told Xinhua that he could not trust China's charity organizations. He said he had helped more than twenty college students with their education by giving money to them directly.

"I want to know exactly how every penny I donate is used, yet most charity organizations don't give detailed explanations," said Zhang.

Once it comes into effect, the regulation could well change how China's charities work, said the sociology professor Wang.

"Our goal is to regulate charity actions, strengthen the management of charitable donations and rebuild the public trust in charity organizations," said Yang Ke, the local legislator who helped draft the regulation.

"It is necessary for China to establish a national law to increase the transparency of charities and encourage charitable actions," said Wang Zhongwu.

In July, Gao Fengtao, deputy director of the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council said at a forum on charity legislation that a national charity law was being drafted, but he did not say when the draft could be submitted to the top legislature for deliberation.

Source: Xinhua


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